Sunday, January 24, 2010

Republicans Stupidity May Be Overcome in 2010: Russ Stewart Analysis


(Russ Stewart (above) is a Chicago attorney and longtime political analyst for the NW Side Nadig newspapers. He regularly appears on WLS-AM's "Political Shootout.")

Contrary to creationists’ insistence that there is “intelligent design” in the origin of the human species, there is no evidence of that phenomenon among Illinois’ Republicans. Because of stupid choices in the 1996 and 1998 senatorial primaries, Republicans unintentionally foisted Dick Durbin and Barack Obama upon America. That’s “unintelligent design.”

However, the upcoming Republican primaries for governor, U.S. Senator and U.S. Representative in the North Shore 10th District are positively Darwinian.
The Republican species is now adapting to the survival of the most electable. The presence or absence of “movement” conservatives in key races is critical. The Feb. 2 winners will be Andy McKenna, Mark Kirk and Bob Dold. Here’s why:

U.S. Senator: Kirk, a bland but credible liberal who supports gun control, abortion choice and gay rights, should be toast in a Republican primary. But he will win. The reason: 2010 is not 1996 or 1998. Beleaguered Republicans want a winner.
Kirk may be another Bob Kustra or Loleta Didrickson. But there is no Al Salvi or Peter Fitzgerald, spending millions of their own dollars, to beat him.

The array of 2010 Republican candidates for Barack Obama’s former seat includes Kirk, a North Shore congressman since 2000, who faces desultory opposition from Hinsdale developer Pat Hughes; retired judge Don Lowery; incendiary blogster Andy Martin, who is attacking Kirk’s sexual orientation; Harvey management consultant John Arrington, who is black; Kathy Thomas, a Springfield school board member; and Bob Zadek, a Rockford realtor.

In 1996, after Paul Simon’s (D) retirement, Republicans were certain they would win his Senate seat. Kustra, then Illinois’ lieutenant governor, was the choice of the Republican establishment, headed by Governor Jim Edgar. Kustra was deemed to be the most electable candidate.

But Kustra was also viewed as a “moderate.” And Salvi, a state representative from Wauconda in western Lake County, spent $1.1 million, positioned himself as a Newt Gingrich-type “revolutionary,” and won an upset by 377,141-342,935 (47.6 percent), a margin of 34,206 votes in a turnout of 791,645. Salvi won 48 of 102 counties, beat Kustra in Cook County by 3,762 votes, and won the collar counties of DuPage, Lake, McHenry, Kane and Will by 129,640-107,283, a margin of 22,257 votes. Downstate, Salvi won by over 8,000 votes. The Republicans’ DNA rejected electability in favor of purity.

In the ensuing election, Democrat Dick Durbin excoriated Salvi as an “extremist,” and crushed him by 2,384,028-1,728,824 (56.1 percent), a margin of 655,204 votes. Now Durbin, the Senate’s majority whip, is poised to become the Democratic majority leader, as Harry Reid’s “light-skinned” comments about Obama will sink his already foundering 2010 re-election chances in Nevada. If Reid loses, Durbin takes over. Had Kustra won in 1996, Durbin would now be a college professor.

In 1998, when accidental incumbent Carol Moseley Braun (D) sought a second term, Republicans had another tempestuous ideological primary: Then-comptroller Didrickson, from the party’s “moderate” Edgar-Kustra wing, faced conservative Peter Fitzgerald, a Palatine state senator. In a replication of 1996, Fitzgerald, the big-spending underdog and outsider, beat Didrickson by 372,916-346,606 (51.8 percent), in a turnout of 719,522. In the election, Fitzgerald defeated Braun by 1,709,041-1,610,496 (50.3 percent), a margin of 98,545 votes.

Fitzgerald was a principled, independent-minded conservative, but he refused to spend five years stockpiling money and frenetically campaigning. After one term, Fitzgerald retired. Had Didrickson been nominated and elected, she would have compiled a liberal record, raised $5 million, and sought a second term in 2004. There would have been no open seat in 2004. Obama may or may not have run, and, if he had, he certainly would not have won by 3,597,456-1,390,690 (69.8 percent). Didrickson, as the incumbent, would have been tough to beat.

Rod Blagojevich acknowledged that recent magazine remarks were “stupid, stupid, stupid.” So, too, have been Republican choices for senator. It can plausibly be argued that, but for the 372,916 Illinois conservatives who backed Fitzgerald in the 1998 primary, Obama would not have become senator in 2004 and president in 2008.
Luckily for Kirk, Hughes is no Salvi or Fitzgerald. Hughes has plenty of issues with which to pummel Kirk, but not enough money. Hughes is ripping Kirk as a “reckless spender,” supporter of cap-and-trade and the bank bailout, and a liberal on social issues and the 2nd Amendment. Kirk, however, opposed to the Obama Administration’s health care initiatives and TARP funding.

For conservative Republicans, Kirk is the tough to swallow. They know he will be an obnoxiously liberal senator, but they’ve learned their lesson. Electing a Democrat like David Hoffman, Alexi Giannoulias or Cheryle Jackson would create another liberal monster.

The magic number for Kirk is 60 percent. Any less would be an embarrassment. A December Chicago Tribune poll put Kirk at 41 percent, Hughes at three percent, and 46 percent undecided. My prediction: Kirk will win with 67 percent.

Governor: It only took one Republican to elect Blagojevich in 2002, and that was corrupt Governor George Ryan. In an oust-every-Republican year, Jim Ryan, then state attorney general, got caught in the undertow, losing to Blagojevich by 1,847,040-1,594,960 (52.2 percent), a margin of 252,080. Blagojevich spent $10 million, carried 35 counties, and won Cook County by 468,974 votes. But it was no landslide.

Now, in 2010, Jim Ryan is back, hoping that “voters’ remorse,” coupled with his residual – and still positive – name recognition, will give him the Republican nomination. His foes are state senators Kirk Dillard and Bill Brady, wealthy businessmen Andy McKenna and Andy Andrzejewski, publicist Dan Proft, and DuPage County Board chairman Bob Schillerstrom.

Republican voters are angry and motivated, opposing any state income tax or spending hike. But no gubernatorial candidate has captured their fancy. The Chicago Tribune poll had Ryan at 26 percent, McKenna at 12, Brady at ten, Dillard at nine, the others all under three percent, and 31 percent undecided. Ryan loses if two-thirds of the “undecideds” break entirely for McKenna, Dillard or Brady; and Ryan wins if one-third breaks for him.

The outlook: Brady got 18.4 percent (135,370 votes) in the 2006 primary, largely from Downstate. He won’t crack 20 percent this time. Dillard’s ads feature Edgar’s endorsement. McKenna is spending $500,000 per week on media, and pledges no tax hike, no spending hike. Proft is calling for a “revolution” in Springfield. Ryan and Dillard do not forswear a possible income tax hike to solve the state’s budget problem. Republican insiders fear Ryan’s “baggage” will make him unelectable.
In the 2002 primary, Ryan, as the “establishment” candidate, won with 410,074 votes (44.7 percent), in a turnout of 917,759. Conservative Pat O’Malley, got 260,860 votes (28.4 percent) and liberal Corrine Wood, got 246,825 votes (26.9 percent). This year, Dillard is the “establishment” choice, but he, Ryan, and Schillerstrom are all from DuPage County, and are splitting DuPage’s 100,000 votes.

McKenna, much like Blagojevich in 2002, is unknown, undefined, and has unlimited money. He and Proft are trying to make themselves the “send-a-message” candidates. Dillard and Brady are the I-can-govern-better candidates. Ryan is running on his resume.

My prediction: McKenna has the greatest potential for growth. Hardcore conservatives will break for him. In a turnout of under 700,000, Ryan and McKenna will finish neck-and-neck: McKenna will get 182,000 votes (26 percent), to Ryan’s 168,000 (24 percent), Dillard’s 133,000 (19 percent), Brady’s 105,000 (15 percent), Proft’s 77,000 (11 percent), Schillerstrom’s 21,000 (3 percent) and Andrzejewski’s 14,000 (2 percent).

And the election will be a replication of 2002: Any competent Republican will beat the Democrat.

10th District: The primary field to succeed Kirk includes State Representative Beth Coulson (R-17), wealthy businessmen Bob Dold and Dick Green, and unknowns Paul Hamann and Arie Friedman. Coulson is liberal on social issues, but fiscally conservative; everybody else is more conservative on all issues. Kirk’s predecessor, John Porter, endorsed Coulson. The early presumption was that, with a plethora of conservatives, Coulson would win.

In 2000, with Porter’s endorsement, Kirk won the primary with 31.4 percent (19,717 votes) in a field of 11 candidates, all less liberal. The turnout was 62,805.
Coalescing anti-Obama hostility with high visibility, Dold has emerged as the “movement” conservative. It’s a two-person race. Coulson’s base is about 40 percent. But more than 75 percent of the conservatives are gravitating to Dold. “He (Dold) is a legitimate, electable alternative” to Coulson, said one Republican insider. My prediction: Dold defeats Coulson by 45 to 40 percent.

Cook County Board President: “I’m campaigning; he’s not. I’m electable; he’s not,” said John Garrido of his opponent, Roger Keats, a former state senator. Garrido, a Northwest Side Chicago police lieutenant has backing from police organizations and area Republicans. Keats has been endorsed by the bulk of Republican ward and township organizations.
The Republican nomination is valueless if Democrats nominate Toni Preckwinkle, but golden if they choose Todd Stroger, Dorothy Brown or Terry O’Brien. My prediction: In a turnout of 110,000, Keats wins with 65 percent.

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